One of the initiatives on the voting ballot this November was a proposed Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia. The Amendment, aptly named the "Charter Schools Amendment," read as follows:
- 1 -
Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.
"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"
Of course, many complained about indirect and ambiguous language. Aside from the obvious critique that "improving student achievement and parental involvement" is being directly linked to "public charter options" (I've seen the research-- in some cases this assertion is true and in others it is not so accurate), the language also fails to distinguish the new addition to the Georgia Constitution-- that the state (or a state board of representatives) would be authorized to approve public charter schools separate from (or perhaps in an appellate capacity) local approval processes. Now, the state authority to approve charter schools that would operate in local districts is what all the hoopla was about. So, let's cut to that.
Georgia voters approved the Amendment with results of approximately 58% to 42% (or 58.5% to 41.5% depending on who you consult).
Those that Vote "Nay"
National education voices, like that of Diane Ravich suggested that the measure would ultimately "gut local control."
Other local, Metro-Atlanta columnists agreed that a NO vote on the Charter Amendment was deserved for at least 10 reasons. See also this article on the 8 Myths of the Proposed Charter Amendment. Persuasively for some, even the editorial board of the major state newspaper published a piece urging a NO vote.
Those that Vote "Yay"
The Vice President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association had this to say. Further, there were even reports that President Obama supposedly supported the Amendment (which would fall in line with the President's education "Blueprint" plan (old and new) that has been a mantle piece for some time).
And the Rest...
Still other journalists tried to distill the issues for voters. Even in my hometown of Athens, Georgia, which I lovingly remember as having an activist/involved education population, there were open forums and discussions on both sides of the issue.
More than Just Georgia
According to the New York Times, here's more on the political breakdown:
- "Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton, has contributed to campaigns supporting the measure"
- "several companies that manage charter schools, including K12 Inc., Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies" supported
- "committees supporting the ballot measure have collected 15 times as much as groups opposing the measure, according to public filings."
Many tried to cast Amendment 1 as a partisan issue, but I believe it is a bit more complicated than attaching an "R" or "D" label. (I acknowledge that Republicans were supposedly responsible for the language of the Amendment.). Evidence shows that some Democrats joined Republicans in support of the Amendment.
"conservatives who typically champion decentralized government are giving the amendment full-throated support. Meanwhile, some Tea Party members have joined Democratic legislators, including State Senators Jason Carter and Vincent D. Fort, in opposing the measure. The state’s school superintendent, John D. Barge, a Republican, has come out against it as well." (NYT)Further, as the creation of Democrats for Education Reform attests, the policies of U.S. education splice creed, regionalism, and background. I could continue with the examples, but I think you get the point.
So what's my point?
Well, my point is that there was all this political speech-- ads for a YES vote, ads for a NO vote all over the airwaves on this issue. Even among my friends, there were chatty talks about "the future of public education in Georgia." But now? Radio silence. I hear not one chirp, besides the articles that I am digging up for this blog post, about what the passage of the Amendment means for Georgia charter schools-- and Georgia schools more broadly.
And, I would like to hear more. I'll keep you tuned.